Baltimore Bridge Disaster: Joe Biden Says Search And Rescue Is “Top Priority,” Vows Federal Government Will Pay To Reconstruct Span — Update

UPDATED: President Joe Biden said that search and rescue operations are the top priority to find the six missing in this morning’s Baltimore bridge accident, in which a cargo ship slammed into the span and it collapsed.

“Our prayers are with everyone involved in this terrible accident, especially those waiting for news of their loved ones right now,” Biden said in a statement at the White House.

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Ship traffic in the Port of Baltimore has been suspended, Biden said, while the bridge collapse has closed a major artery in the Northeast Corridor.

Biden said that the Army Corps of Engineers will lead the effort to clear the channel, and “we’re going to get it up and running as soon as possible.”

He also said that “it is my intention that the federal government will pay for the entire cost of reconstructing that bridge, and I expect the Congress to support my effort.” He said that the reconstruction effort is “going to take some time.”

Asked whether the shipping company should be held responsible for the cost of reconstruction of the bridge, Biden said, “We’re not going to wait for that to happen. We’re going to pay for it to get the bridge rebuilt and open.”

Networks are sending their anchors to the scene, with Lester Holt of NBC and Norah O’Donnell planning to anchor their evening broadcasts from Baltimore. NewsNation’s Leland Vittert also will be at the scene.

PREVIOUSLY: Six people, all construction workers fixing potholes on Baltimore’s Francis Scott Key Bridge at the time the cargo ship rammed into the structure, remain unaccounted for, Baltimore officials said at a 10:15 a.m. ET press conference this morning.

Paul Wiedefeld, Maryland’s transportation secretary, said eight construction workers are believed to have fallen into the water. One was rescued and taken to a local hospital, one was rescued an needed no treatment, and six remain missing.

Maryland Gov. Wes Moore said at the presser that the cargo ship’s crew had informed authorities that the vessel had lost power just before it struck the bridge. He added that the cargo ship issued a mayday call, and that cars were then stopped from entering the bridge.

William DelBagno, the FBI Special Agent in Charge, said no indications of terrorism had been found at this time.

PREVIOUS: Baltimore authorities are searching for at least seven people after a dramatic cargo ship crash caused the Francis Scott Key Bridge to collapse.

During a press briefing on Tuesday morning, Baltimore Fire Chief James Wallace said an active search and rescue mission was underway following the incident at 1:30 AM local time.

Two people have already been removed from the water, one of whom was taken to a local trauma center in a serious condition. The other individual was not injured.

Submerged vehicles have been detected in the water using sonar technology. It is not clear how many vehicles were involved in the incident.

Video from the scene showed a large outbound vessel colliding with one of the bridge’s support columns, causing the structure to fall dramatically into the Patapsco River.

Baltimore Mayor Brandon M. Scott said it was an “unthinkable tragedy.” He added: “We have to be thinking about the families and people impacted, folks who we have to try to find.

“This is what our focus should be on right now, we’re going to continue to work in partnership with every part of government to do everything we can to get us through the other side of this tragedy.”

The White House said it was “closely monitoring” the situation. “Our hearts go out to the families of those who remain missing as a result of this horrific incident,” it added.

Earlier in the morning, Kevin Cartwright, director of communications for the Baltimore Fire Department, said the collapse was a “dire emergency” and a “developing mass casualty event.”

The Dali cargo ship involved in the accident operates under a Singapore flag and is owned by Synergy Marine Group. All crew were safe, according to the company.

The Dali container ship stranded by the Francis Scott Key Bridge
The Dali container ship stranded by the Francis Scott Key Bridge

Francis Scott Key Bridge is a major transport route in Baltimore, opening in 1977. The 1.6-mile bridge has been a production location for films including Deep Impact.

A live stream of the scene shows the wreckage of the bridge surrounding the halted ship.

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